With Indiana ending federal unemployment benefits a week from Saturday, advocates for working families want people to know that there are resources available to help meet basic needs.
Unemployment numbers have not quite reached pre-pandemic levels in the Hoosier State, but Jessica Fraser, director of the Indiana Institute for Working Families, noted they have been dropping.
And while Gov. Eric Holcomb said the move to end the federal benefits is to get more people into the workforce, Fraser said there’s more to it.
“There’s no evidence that folks are choosing to stay on UI rather than work,” said Fraser. “The employment picture is more complicated than that. We have many folks who are still struggling to find work. We have folks that cannot find adequate child care.”
Indiana’s minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum: $7.25 an hour. Fraser noted that many available jobs right now are lower-wage service jobs, and some residents with kids or other circumstances cannot afford to take them.
A number of other Republican states also are cutting benefits, including Montana, Arizona, Utah, South Carolina and more.
Fraser added that people can call their local community action agency or Indiana 211 to access COVID relief funds if they need help with rental assistance, food, child care or other needs.
But she said that may not go as far as the federal unemployment, and she points to data from the Century Foundation that shows more than 280,000 Hoosiers will be impacted by this change.
“Figuring out how to support families through the emergency rental assistance and through the money that’s coming in through the various federal plans for child care is going to be a huge part of the solution,” said Fraser.
Earlier this month, Indiana also reinstated the work-search requirement for state unemployment benefits – meaning to access them, people have to submit records of their participation in at least one work-search activity a week, such as applying to a job or attending job fairs.